I suppose it was a matter of time anyway. I mean, I really do visit the sites I have listed in my "Clubhouse List." I've seen some card bloggers trash each other, and after this post, I may find myself on the receiving end of some of that trashing. I can live with it. I'm a big boy.
What am I talking about? Sponsorship. Payola. Cash and prizes for posts and product reviews.
Some bloggers are adamant about NOT "accepting" sponsorships of "any" kind. Some bloggers are more than happy to have corporate folks sending cash or merchandise in exchange for ad space or a posted review. Frankly, I don't care one way or another. I mean, heck, if the Cleveland Indians wrote to tell me that they'd like to advertise on my blog in exchange for cash or Tribe-related trinkets, I'd have no problem accepting it.
Well, sure, that makes sense, right? I mean, that IS what I write about, after all. But what about Upper Deck, Topps, or Dave and Adam's? Or Tribalfusion? How about AdSense?
I have AdSense ads on here. Sometimes they match with my posts and, sometimes I shake my head wondering why I even bother to have them on here. Okay, honestly, I mostly shake my head. I've never drawn one red cent from AdSense ads. That's not for wanting to or for trying, but rather because no one really seems to ever click through. Oh well, that suits me fine.
I know that Mario over at Wax Heaven has been working with Upper Deck to do reviews of boxes that he'll be receiving. I think that's smokin' cool! Some people question his move - will his reviews be unbiased? Are they ALLOWED to be unbiased? Some folks, like Gellman at Sports Cards Uncensored, say they would never have sponsors on their blogs.
But, for me, there is a very thin line that is often indiscernible between sponsorship and 'targeted advertising.' Look at Gellman's site. See the ads down the right-hand side? TribalFusion. It means he gets paid if you click through.
So, what *IS* the difference between flat-out sponsorship and 'click-through advertising?' The main difference, in my opinion, is expectation. When you place the AdSense-type placeholders on your site, the expectation is that the server (in this case, AdSense) will be able to accurately place links on your page. Your expectation is that your readers will even bother to look at the ads and then click on them. You also expect to get paid if enough people click through. With direct sponsorship, the corporation sets out exactly what it expects - ad placement requirements, web page imprints, a review of a product, a POSITIVE review of a product perhaps. Your expectation comes in the form of cash or goods in exchange for doing your part.
Why is it that people question integrity when the revenue is tied back to a specific sponsor (Dave and Adam's, say), but seem to have no problem whatsoever when a third party (Google, say) serves out the ads seen on the site? I suppose in the latter case, the blogger can always say, "Well, that AdSense placement for Upper Deck's latest offering wasn't MY fault! THEY did it!"
I believe that a writer has to have already built up a reputation of integrity for a corporate sponsor to even pay attention in the first place. The fact that now the writer receives product to be reviewed without paying for it just shows how much the product's supplier trusts that writer. Having said that, if events were to occur such that I was approached about a direct-placement, I would make it perfectly clear to the company that I will freely express my opinion whether it be positive or negative in relation to the product(s) being reviewed. Additionally, I would make sure I had an out if I didn't like the way things were going.
The argument between accepting sponsorships or not seems to be growing as more bloggers must grapple with the decision. Some people claim to be for it while others are dead-set against it. But really, the line between targeted ads and sponsorship is only a matter of semantics.